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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe abused following press conference

UK Twitter users accuse recently released British-Iranian detainee of lacking gratitude to government
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe reacts as she attends a press conference hosted by MP Tulip Siddiq, at Portcullis House, London, on 21 March 2022 (AFP)

Following her release from a six-year jail sentence in Iran, British-Iranian national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has become the subject of a vulgar hashtag trend on Twitter calling her an “ungrateful cow”. 

The hashtag trended on Twitter after users expressed strong criticism of Zaghari-Ratcliffe's first public address since returning to the UK, after being released along with fellow British-Iranian Anoosheh Ashoori.

In the press conference on Monday, Zaghari-Ratcliffe said: "I don't agree with Richard [her husband] on thanking the foreign secretary, because I have seen five foreign secretaries over the course of the six years… How many foreign secretaries does it take for someone to come home, five?"

She added that her release from Iran "should have happened six years ago".

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Some Twitter users responded to Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s strong stance with the inflammatory hashtag. 

One user went as far as saying “can we get a refund” on the £400m that was paid to settle the historic debt owed by Britain to Iran.

Many users referenced the contrasting appearance of Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her husband during the press conference. Painting Richard Ratcliffe as the real victim, a now-deleted tweet asked: “Which one looks like they’ve been to hell and back?”

Many jumped to her defence, praising her for speaking out against the way the UK government and consecutive foreign secretaries had handled her ordeal. 

Former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt took to Twitter to express his deep regret at how long it took to get her out of prison. 

“I tried my best - as did other foreign secretaries - but if trying our best took six years then we must be honest and say the problem should have been solved earlier,” he said.

Boris Johnson was UK foreign secretary between July 2016 and July 2018, during which time his involvement was notably unhelpful to Zaghari-Ratcliffe's plight. 

In November 2017, Johnson told a Commons committee that Zaghari-Ratcliffe was "simply teaching people journalism", despite her insistence that she had been in Iran on holiday. She was subsequently summoned to an unscheduled court hearing in Iran, where Johnson’s words were used as apparent proof of ‘"propaganda" against Iran’s government.

Academic and Middle East researcher Marc Owen Jones tweeted a thread finding a correlation between those pushing out the “ungrateful cow” trend and members of "pro Brexit" and "anti-woke" communities. He noted that many of the tweets were from accounts that often peddled misogynistic and racist views.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe had spent the last six years under Iranian detention after being arrested in Tehran on a visit to family in 2016, when she was accused of plotting to overthrow the regime.

She believes she was being held as a political prisoner until a debt between Britain and Iran was settled.

Two more British citizens are publicly known to be held in Iran: Morad Tahbaz and Mehran Raoof.

Tahbaz’s daughter was at Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s press conference on Monday, and called for the UK government to "stand by their word and bring back her parents".

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